"Best of the Worst" Cuts for Mam'k Schools Proposed

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Teacher and administrator salaries, health insurance, pensions and debt service obligations

 

are among the rising costs faced by the Mamaroneck School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried.
 
He outlined the District’s budget problems and his recommendations for cutting the 2010-2011 school district budget to concerned community members, administrators and members of the Board of Education at the Hommocks Middle School Auditorium Tuesday night. 
 
The rising costs, combined with declining revenues from New York State and Westchester County sales taxes require the Mamaroneck School district to trim next year’s budget expenditures. The goal of the meeting was to present and solicit budget reduction ideas, many of which were heard at the first community meeting two months ago and submitted to the district website. 
 
Dr. Fried explained that the choices he would outline represent the "Best of the Worst".  He added that while he could not happily endorse any reduction that affects our children, he and the Board are listening to all the ideas presented by the community as well as speaking to other school districts.
If the school budget were to just roll over, without any changes to the budget, the costs would go from $120 million to $130 million, a 9% increase. If the budget was voted down, and a contingency budget were to be adopted, that would be a 0% increase.Somewhere between zero and 9%, we would have to "close the gap" and adopt a budget the community could support.  Last year, the Superintendent noted that the community voted for a 3.2% increase. This was achieved by eliminating 34 positions, raising the elementary class size and reining in non-instructional costs. 
 
This year, the district shaved costs in maintenance, utilities, lighter health-insurance obligations and reducing the debt service by dipping into a $1.5 million reserve. Other district-wide program reductions will be instituted, which will result in less money for class trips, musicals, pep band and  the Larchmont Mamaroneck Counseling Center;  9 extracurricular clubs at the high school and middle school will be eliminated. Further reductions in professional development like consultants and summer work, special ed, technology purchases, materials and supplies result in a savings of $3,741,619. This brings the budget down from 9% to 6%. In order to present a budget the community could support, a further reduction of $3.7 million is needed to bring the budget increase to 3%.
 
Dr. Fried then outlined spending reduction options for the schools. For the elementary schools those options include either a half day kindergarten program, increasing class size by two children or a third "Princeton Plan" which he cautioned was not viable for September but was requested by some Board of Education members and some parents. The Princeton Plan reduces the need for 12-14 teachers by having the children attend all four schools throughout their elementary years. There were two versions of this plan: classes travel together through all four schools, or through paired schools. For example, children would go to Chatsworth for kindergarten through second grade then attend Central for third through fifth grade. The caveat for this plan is that transportation costs might be higher. Savings ranged from 1.2 million to 1.7million.
 
Hommocks Middle School options include raising class sizes slightly, eliminating 10 teachers and aides. Another option would be to create 14 sections of "Super Teams"instead of the current team system of 16 sections. This would be a one-year fix only, since the fifth grade class is too large to split up this way. Option B is to cut the nine period day to eight periods of 46 minutes per class. Savings range from $1 million to almost $1.4 million.
 
The high school had the fewest reductions with savings ranging from $400,000 to $1.1 million, mostly through cutbacks in  curriculum coordinators, physical education, a math and english teacher, a guidance counselor and a reading teacher.
 
Reductions in athletics would be achieved by option A: cutting eight teams and nine coaches, and possibly B: reducing 14 program assistant coaches. Option C  reduces even more teams (for those sports served by community recreation groups) affecting approximately 345 kids. Option D would  put seven additional modified sports  teams on the chopping block, affecting 485 children. Those savings range from $93,000 to $315,000.
 
Taken altogether, almost 54 positions could be eliminated by the proposed budget cuts.  Dr. Fried, using a sharp budget scalpel, identified his choices which result in a total savings of $3,809,921, a 2.8% budget increase.
 
After the Superintendent’s presentation, the Board of Education members took their place on stage and proceeded to ask questions. Can we refinance our debt?  Answer: the school always checks periodically but no new opportunities have arisen to date.  How were the cuts to the clubs determined?  Answer:  under-enrollment determined most of the choices.
 
This reporter left soon after the board took the stage. I did not stay to hear the community’s questions and concerns.  I did, however, walk out with one disgruntled parent who complained, "We went nine years without an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum. Why were no administrators cut?"  Interesting question.  I imagine that and many other questions will be fielded by the superintendent in the coming months.
 
The entire discussion was taped by LMC-TV and will be aired on Channel 76 (Cablevision)/35 (Verizon), Thursday 2/4 12 pm, 3 pm; Friday, 2/5, 6 pm; Saturday, 2/6, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm, 6 pm; Sunday, 2/7, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm, 6 pm; Monday, 2/8, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm.  Channel 77 (Cablevision)/34 (Verizon), Sunday, 2/7, 9 am.  
 
 
Important dates:
 
February 9,           Budget meeting
March 16,              Superintendent recommends budget to the Board of Education
March 20,              Budget meeting
April 6,                   Budget study session
April 20,                 Adoption of budget
May 18,                  Budget vote
 

8 thoughts on “"Best of the Worst" Cuts for Mam'k Schools Proposed

  1. Oreo- Exactly how would a school district go about entering bankruptcy? Also, what do you mean that a 3% increase is 3x’s the municipalities? I need to come up to speed on that. Please expand on both ideas.

    M&em- your points are well made, but we have a unfunded long-term business plan that needs to be addressed. Money has to be the issue. A $200,000 return last year represented a miniscule amount of last year’s raises (were they nearly $4mm?) and was an off-book give-back so that it didn’t affect benefits and future raises.

    The community needs to be as educated as possible; although it feels like we aren’t running this business any more, we are certainly paying for it. Your input is crucial. For ex. The elementary school principals suggested that cutting back the K program would bring the least impact to our community. However, community input reveals deep concern about how such a cut will impact our desirability to new home buyers and could negatively impact our home values. That is excellent feedback…not on the radar of the principals as they don’t own homes here and there first concern in not the value of our homes (nor should it be, but we do have to keep that in mind as we go through this process) and the importance of kindergarten is not the first thought of the school board as I believe only one member has grade school children.

  2. I’m blown away by the comments from parents on this board. I’m a father in the district and not one to quickly side with any union. Yet, when considering the benefits for the people that teach my kids on a daily basis versus the bloated administration that is clearly sucking as much money out of the budget as possible. When I hear “Dr.” Paul Fried claim that the teachers are holding back the districts ability to maintain the budget, while the parents are being asked to fork over more money for less services, fewer teachers, larger class sizes, I can only ask the basic line item questions that nobody seems to be asking except one person on this thread who clearly gets it. Why do we all of a sudden have so many consultants? Why are we paying for the destruction of the creativity and personal interaction between our teachers and our children? How many hundreds of thousands of dollars is the Administration wasting of our money to solidify their positions without spending one penny on support of our teachers.
    So let’s talk about the teachers, who are scared for their jobs, who have been ground down to work specific hours and after hours which they get no credit for. After seeing the press and hearing stories from teachers about how the district is now being run as a business, I am shocked at the lack of support our teachers, some within the district for decades, are being served up as the only means to solve this budget crises. I say look at the line items that administration is dipping into and you’ll find plenty of waste. The union is ineffective as far as I can tell because the teachers are quiet, taking insults, finger pointing and abuse with no defense. Their contract comes up next year and I’m sure they won’t get anything back that they might give up if they did open the contract. I say let’s see some belt tightening on the Administration side. Come on people! We’re smart and we are the ones who the teachers and Administration report to. Let’s focus on getting the best education for our kids, smallest class sizes and remember that the Administration doesn’t teach our kids, teachers do.

  3. [quote][i]When written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.[/i] – John F. Kennedy[/quote]

    Doug, one answer is bankruptcy, better that of the district than of the residents of the community. An alternative is leadership. Another choice is cooperation.

    Unfortunately, it seems the administration has given over the role of leadership and the union is not teaching cooperation. Perhaps the school district has much to learn, a proposal to replace a superintendent that is not required, and a need for improvements in teaching.

  4. With the current economic crisis threatening Mamaroneck’s future, it seems that the wagons have begun to circle, and we are shooting inward. Money creates so many issues, and cutting nearly four million dollars out of the budget has accusations and finger pointing in full bloom. I have three children and am familiar only with Central School and the Hommocks; my family moved to Mamaroneck from the city because we thought Mamaroneck was the community where we wanted raise and educate our children. While we are concerned about the cuts that are being made, we are hopeful that Mamaroneck will continue to provide the excellent education that lured us here.

    One of the main concerns that I have is the recent finger pointing by the PTA and Central Administration at the teachers. Over the past several weeks, it seems that the talking points of the administrators of the district are focused at devaluing the teachers while increasing the stock of the central administrative staff and academic coaches. This is confusing to me for the success of this district is teacher, student and family based not administrative. When we moved to Mamaroneck, there were no academic coaches at the middle school or a Superintendent of Curriculum. Years later we watched debate after debate on the need for “Administrative Department Directors.” It failed. This administration has sold the BOE a business model for Mamaroneck Schools that is not working: more administrators, more teacher accountability, and buying curriculum. Ask any elementary parent how they feel about TERC math. It is not working, but the district won’t change elementary direction; they’ve invested too much money.

    We have been told over the past two weeks, that the Superintendent of Curriculum and academic coaches were essential. In addition, it was said that their lack of noticeable effectiveness was the “teachers’ fault.” Doctor Fried commented to the Larchmont Gazette last week that the MTA refused to open the contract, and that tied the hands of the district to creatively solve the budget problem. It is rumored that Dr. Fried has a car payment, an apartment in town and a retirement package built into his contract. Is he willing to renegotiate that? Another rumor is that with our BOE’s search for a new superintendent they are considering paying a salary of over $300,000.00 a year. Will our new administrator point their finger at the teachers while collecting that paycheck?

    With 53 staff members being let go and a $200,000.00 return to the district last year from the teachers, is it fair of the community to be pointing the finger at the adults we trust our children with seven hours a day for ten months? My children have spent dozen of hours before school, at lunchtime, and after school with their teachers. I would hate to turn these professionals into teachers that only follow their contract – 8:00 to 3:30 teachers – all because they do not have a strong voice in the community or in the PTA. Has anyone reached out to the teachers for their input or help? Remember, administrators and coaches do not teach our children, teachers do. They are in education for the right reason: teaching children not the paycheck.

    If Mamaroneck is going to continue to allow this administration to place all of the economic failures of Mamaroneck on the teachers, perhaps our BOE should hire a superintendent with a different vision.

    Lastly, our teachers are paid fairly; they are educated well beyond master’s degrees, and could certainly have pursued other fields especially our secondary math and science departments. Additionally, many of our teachers choose Mamaroneck over NYC schools and other competitive districts, and if we cannot offer them a reason to come here, it will harm our schools’ future. If we are going to try to demand or initiate a pay freeze or pay cuts in the future, we may get what we pay for.

  5. What about that “public relation/information” person who sends out the emails about board meetings (and won’t look you in the eye at them?) She’s bringing home six figures. Do we really need these kinds of extra positions when we have to cut teachers and add to class sizes?

  6. It’s always nice to see that the Students are the ones who lose out and the Teachers get the gains. The contract and raises are what make up the bulk of year to year increases (something Fried must have intentionally omitted from his presentation). So we lost a lot of government funding. What is the dollar increase in the budget due to raises and what is the exact dollars we will not receive. There has to be a legal method to reduce raises by that exact dollar amount. There must be a way, any JD interested in seeing if there is precedent? Just matching last years $120 million is not an answer. These are drastic changes and we must not allow it. We didn’t get the state and government funding, so teachers, staff, and ADMINISTRATION, your raise must be short in that amount. Now that would CLOSE THE GAP.

  7. [quote][i]Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.[/i] – Christopher Morley[/quote]

    So now we must wonder whether anyone asked the obvious question. Why not save probably another approximately $350,000 next year in T.C. by leaving the School District Superintendent position open and having the function shared by the many remaining administrators?

    There is a game of chicken going on and we’re waiting to see who blinks first. Taxpayers are keeping eyes wide open.

    3% is not acceptable now, it is three times the dollar increase of the municipalities although disguised by the percent number. And it is a one time fix that doesn’t solve anything.

    Make it work, but 0% new taxes.

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